The White Lady

By Darren Joy

A dark world, a hint of grey and the mere suggestion of light; a line of undulating shadows slowly appearing on the horizon, bordering a wide mantle of snow. The first rays of the dawn star touched the frozen dead lands of the world below. A man standing upon the castle walls, his hands frozen to the rough stone, melding white with the snow as if they were one. Beneath his left wrist guard a jagged scar etched its way merrily downwards to the tip of his thumb.

Unconsciously he touched the scar, running his finger along its path, feeling the pain that only the winter brought each year.

Soon another man joined him and both stood side by side, wordlessly honoring the morning sun. This man was older; his hair not so dark, his temples speckled with white, and a cheerful demeanor to that of his companion.

"His Majesty requires a report," said the new arrival after a moment as he too stared at the Mountains. A splash of gold and a hint of red were spreading across their broad peaks, stretching to the nearer lands of fields and meadows. The scent of roasting meat and freshly chopped wood wafted upon a breeze.

"His Majesty will wait," retorted the Captain, suddenly angry at the mention of the monarch. Though he spoke thus, his eyes showed regret for his tone.

"You are still the Captain of the Guard, you have duties to fulfill, no matter what evils plague your mind," said the other man perceptively.

The captain turned and stared at his friend. "I pledged my sword, my life to the Lady, as did my men, as did you." His voice quieted. "It is her life that hangs in the balance, not his."

"And what of your...I mean...the girl?"

Silence and then a voice filled with vehemence. "Neither the Necromancer, nor the king shall have her, I swore to Elara to protect them both from enemies within and without these walls." He gestured in the direction of the battlements. They had now captured the light of the dawn; the glint of soldiers’ spears spoke of the change of guard. "For now only the king knows of her, the Necromancer's gaze has yet to stretch that far," he said, finally answering the question.

"I'm afraid I could not get them out," said the other man, cautiously relaying his failure to carry out his orders.

He nodded knowingly; he had expected it to be so. The king was a man of nefarious reputation, there was an unseen web being woven.

A peaceful quiet ensued. A robin perched nearby and watched curiously the goings on. A chirrup! The hustle and bustle of well-armed men far below. Thoughts and images of the past: a young girl all in white, her hair golden like harvest grain and her eyes green like the meadows. A young child laughing gaily in the sunshine and suddenly a dark form coming between them all. He brought his mind back to reality, to the inevitability's of life.

"They are coming," he said suddenly, his voice raucous and hard. He looked sidelong at Darius his trusted friend and gave a slight smile that was offset by a frown. It was only now that Darius noticed the deep lines upon his face, the raven hair somewhat grayed before its time.

"They are, but they shall be cut down like forest wood before us."

"If he has his way we'll be the wood before the hatchet," said the Captain balefully.

They looked at each other, both knowing the truth of those words.

Darius faced his friend and placed a reassuring hand upon his shoulder. There was a determination in his voice. "They shall not have her Baruch...they shall not have her."

A blazing fire cast shadows upon the grey stone of the chamber. A dark figure, still before the skipping flames.

A wooden table stood in a corner. A burned out lamp and unkempt pages littering its old frame. A voice, a child's laughter. At the sound the man stirred, his head cocked as if listening. The laughter died and now there were hurried steps and the beating of a drum reverberating in his ears. The steps were closer. The chamber doors opened slowly inward; he dared not look but kept his tired eyes firmly on the crackling fire. The doors shut, and warmth other than the fire caressed the room.

Silence, sparks rose high from the half dried wood and their sound filled his mind. He felt her presence but not a word was spoken. She moved towards him, her footfalls echoing the beating of his heart.

A hand reaching from behind, gently touching his. So gently, he was unsure if it had occurred. Her perfumed scent of autumn flowers pervading his very being.

He neither resisted nor responded but spoke in a subdued tone barely audible above the furore of the burning wood.

"You asked for me my Lady." For a moment there was a deepening quiet, then her touch became more apparent.

"This cannot be, please do not ask this of me," he said, his voice a distant sigh.

Her face now closer to his, her breath warm and kind, the hairs of his neck sent into hot disarray.

"I loved you then, I love you still," she whispered. "If only my path I could've changed...," she trailed off, suddenly defeated by the pain of her heart.

"You have chosen your path, you belong to another," he said, his utterance harsh and definite.

"Look at me Baruch," she pleaded with sudden earnest.

He turned for he could not disobey that voice. Still he dared not lift his eyes but gently placing her hand beneath his chin, she lifted his head. He looked into a sea of sparkling green like emeralds caught in the light of the moon. She was clothed in white, her hair like golden streams showering upon her shoulders. Her skin was soft and pure, as pure as a coverlet of snow.

They clasped hands and once again his heart was lighter, wandering upon a winter breeze.

Darius watched the mountain range for a second time that day, though now much closer to their forested slopes. There in the distance was a weaving line, broad and long. Though indistinct and far he could just make out black shapes pounding the earth. Like a dark serpent it wove ever downwards until the green girth of the mountains covered their very existence.

‘Christ, there’s millions of them,’ he breathed. He consciously gripped the hilt of his sword as if some comfort lay therein. He turned in his saddle and there far behind was Ashkeroth, the city of the White Lady. ‘They would not have her,’ he thought, ‘Baruch would see to that.’ He looked down hill to his companion. "Report to the Captain, immediately. Inform him that they will have reached the walls by dusk. We shall be in for a long night."

The other rider who was some way down behind, as if afraid to expose himself to watchful eyes, gladly turned in the direction of home. He sped off with all the power his mount could muster.

Darius stayed a while longer watching patiently. After some time it emerged from the tree line, the head and then the body snaking towards the river, to the main bridge crossing. He lowered his gaze and sure enough there were the others. The remains of it crashed into the surging rapids. There was no other for many miles and those waters were fierce and unforgiving.

Slowly he turned and then raced in the direction of Ashkeroth, it was time; they were here.

Withdrawing his hands, once again he faced the flames, as if seeking refuge in the whispering tongues. She too turned her back and gazed without through the narrow opening. Lines of men marched, armed with spears and tall bows of yew. Long quivers of deer skin upon their backs and full amour they bore as they strode to face the oncoming horde. She withdrew her gaze and concentrated on the man before her, desiring him to turn, to see every glance of his brown eyes and every line upon his face.

"You are well," she asked surveying his features, clearly eager to be close yet respectful of his wishes.

"Yes, but now I feel darkness approach," Baruch replied brusquely. As he spoke he noticed the light of the room retreating with the length of day.
"They come for me, don’t they?" she asked. On hearing her words he turned, looking anxiously towards her. Every inch of his countenance she absorbed with permeating eyes.

"They will not harm you my Lady, I promise it. As long as I live they shall not breach our walls." His voice was resolute, his eyes seeming to reflect the firelight though it now to his rear.

"Baruch," she paused unsure of her words, seeking in vain to somehow change the course of events. "I have seen..." she lingered for a moment, ‘I have seen it all unfold in my dreams. To me you have sworn your sword, your life. Now I wish it were otherwise. Perhaps another, Darius, he could take your place?"

He shook his head solemnly. "I would then have the guilt of his death to bear. Would you ask that of me, allow another man to die in my stead?" His tone was severe and regretted as soon as spoken.

She turned her back hiding her face, her words clear and cold, "At least you would be alive."

He started to leave, shocked that such words had escaped those lips, but aware of this she ran to him forcing him to embrace. All his resistance crumbled; it was a long embrace, one neither wished to end.

"Forgive me," she asked as deep sorrow clouded her eyes. Inside herself as she held him close, she resolved to change the course her dreams had laid.

The army hastened towards the river. Horses of sable coat, muscular limbed, shouldering snow ahead of them like autumn leaves before a storm. Tall men, armor of ebony hue, velvet capes and black shields overlaid with symbols that no man could comprehend. Red and intertwining like slithering snakes coiled about foreign letters, ringed around a dragon of fire.

A dark figure upon a hardy steed, a raised hand. The clamor of clashing armor, hoofs on rock and stone all ceased in a breath.

He surveyed the broken bridge, the rapids below. Not a sound came from behind; all knew his temperament and none dared rouse this age-old warrior.

Spurring his mount forward he entered the river, all followed without query. The waters swirled about them like a silver army, beating against them as a white vapor arose to blind their passage. The rushing waters began to besiege them, covering their heads. The wind rose and speech was heard, carried upon its wings. Four of the riders came unhorsed; the leader halted midway, his struggling to stay upright.

Cursing he raised his head and looked in the direction of Ashkeroth. "Cease your foolish spells, white witch. None can save you, not the wind, nor water, nor sky or the earth. We have come for you and you will obey."

White mind strove with black and the now raging storm continued in its wrath, but a force greater than the earth was to be reckoned with. Soon the winds abated and the waters subsided to their normal flow.

The lines of dark men wore onwards; an hour passed, then all was silent but for the thrashing water. The broken bridge had failed to hinder them. Nothing could halt the army of the Necromancer.

"Where is the Captain?" asked the young man with a sarcastic eye, as if to suggest some knowledge of his comings and goings.

"Mind your tongue and prepare yourself, we have a fight ahead of us that will test us all," said a knowing Darius. "He has authorized me to oversee you lot, he will be with us soon. See to the horses, the Guard will be at the front and must be ready." He looked at the young soldier, his face hard and sullen. "It must not fail," he added.

As he spoke archers lined the battlements, their long bows and sheathed swords foretelling a gruesome battle. Catapults of enormous size were loaded within the city walls and men were arrayed in full war gear. His horse was of a dark coloring, lightly speckled with white. Her armor was bright and polished; her eyes burning as if expectant of battle. She awaited him as did his men; they readied themselves to fulfill their vow; to protect the White Lady.

A light knock and the doors swung back with excruciating slowness. A small white hand and a lock of hair announced the arrival of the uninvited guest. She peered round looking for some sight of her mother's presence before she ventured further. On seeing her she smiled broadly and ran to her, heedless of her drafty entrance. A little girl arrayed as the summer sky with flowers bouncing in her hair, was enfolded in her mother's arms. Quickly she turned to inspect the stranger.

"Who are you?" Her voice was thin and she folded her arms, connoting a smaller version of the Lady.

He did not answer but stared dumbly, confounded at the sight of her. For so long he had desired a glimpse of her hair or the sound of her laughter. Now that she was before him, eyeing him coldly, he knew not what to say.

Sensing his predicament, Elara knelt beside her daughter and whispered.

"He is the Captain my child; Our Guardian."

It was growing darker outside, as he glanced through the narrow window. He knew the time was near, but turning again seeing them before him, all thoughts vanished.

Moving closer, Elara once again touched his left hand, the scar relaying a pleasant pain to his brain. A strange feeling welled inside the young child, a connection between herself and her mother; she knew who this man was. Kneeling on one knee, for the first time he held his family. They fused as one and his heart melted as if it had been placed on the forest wood that burned so furiously. Tears strolled down his cheeks as a dream he had held so long was realized, for but a moment.

The walls now closer, a hand was raised once more. All movement ceased as if it had never been. A flash of red and brown drew attention to a tiny bird perched nearby. It watched curiously upon an emaciated tree that seemed to bend with her weight. The entire world was silent before these evil men, if men you would call them. For not a trace of pale flesh could be seen, all were hid beneath a metal shroud, only the eyes were naked to the world and the robin seemed to stare at the leader. His seemed to glow, cinders that would soon spark to flames.

Then all of a sudden, the strange commander turned in his saddle and stared down the little fluff of feathers. "Tell her we come and that she must make ready. She knows of what will happen if she resists again," he said in a guttural tone as his charger shivered at the sound.

"Go, tell her, you little rat of the skies and do not dare to look upon my face again."

The robin listened, its head half cocked and flew towards the black captain with a flurry of flight. A chirrup as fierce as she could manage grated their senses. He waved one arm wildly in defense but the first blow had been struck as the creature wiped a white stain from his cold cape. There followed a string of unknown vulgarities. Other men would have rolled up in derision but no sound save the flight of the speedy messenger could be heard.

The doors burst open with a resounding boom as they collided with the walls behind. The King strode in as if he had just been informed, he was no longer King. His dark robes gathered about him like protective crows over a fat carcass and his aides hung behind like whipped dogs. A large man he was and a sword of magnificent make was sheathed at his side; its golden hilt now gripped as if in readiness.

"What is this? Little witch, get out of my sight before I kick you out," he roared. A dark shadow passed over them and a chill breeze seemed to permeate the room. Once again they separated, but staying close to one another, there was hope, hope of another time.

The young child had decided she was going nowhere as she clung to her mother’s leg.

"She stays where she is," said Baruch in a reasonable tone. The Captain could see recognition light in the King's eyes like an angry flame. His voice was fierce and terrifying, his face plump and red, as if every vessel of blood had popped. "You, I will have you executed along with that miserable infantile."

He pointed a long finger at Baruch who smirked in response. "You would do better to take heed of the armies drawing close to your walls, or did you notice?" he asked.

The King drew his sword, his face alight with rage and his attendants falling over themselves in shock and horror. It was then that the young girl hurled herself at the King, and beat with all her might upon his knee.

He struck her fiercely knocking her several feet back, drawing blood from her mouth. Immediately the Captain had sword in hand and was about to strike, his ardor rising like a gushing spring. Then all at once, a whirl of wind seemed to rise from the very flags upon the floor and envelop the King. He was hurled back with a force of the gods; he smashed into the corner table, sundering it to pieces. Sheaves of paper fluttered in the air, a murmur like laughter floating amongst them. And there she stood, her hands outstretched but for an instant and then her daughter nestling in her arms. Two guards appeared and the King recovered quickly. Fumbling for his sword he shouted, ordering them to kill Baruch.

"HALT and dare not move," said Baruch in a thundering voice that caused the guards to stop and shudder. None would dare confront the Captain, especially when he held a weapon.

"Kill him now as he stands," said the King a second time but to no avail. The Guards shook their heads and stepping backwards one of them spoke.

"W...we wish to report my liege, that the enemy has arrived, they are but two miles from our walls. The Captain is needed, we are in great peril," said the guard in a quavering voice.

"I had better take your leave my liege," said the Captain mockingly, "unless you want your walls swarming with the army of the Necromancer?"

The King took a step closer, the bite taken out of his rage. His eyes were as wild as ever.

"You had better die well Baruch and you can take that hex's spawn with you," he said in a low voice as he waved wildly in the direction of the girl. "But my wife is mine, her you cannot have."

Baruch responded in an equally low voice, his manner threatening, and his sword ready. "She is your wife, your Queen, but her heart is mine; that you shall never have."

The king looked upwards towards his wife; she looked pleadingly back. Then with a smirk he spoke one final time. "Even that you shall not have for very long my friend." There was an evil gleam in his eye.

The King turned on his heel and stormed through the doors, sending one of the guards crashing to the ground.

Darius ran along side his Captain, striving in vain to keep up. He was not so young any longer but now there was need of haste. They were closing deliberately slow, as if the waiting city to agonize. Baruch had entrusted his friend the task of preparing the defenses; he was not disappointed. Darius was a man of experience and many still favored him as captain. Such was life and he was a good man, not prone to complaining. A good thing for his friend was not one to listen.

"Darius, my old friend, you must do this last task for me. I am needed before the walls and things may go badly." He spoke frankly; there was no time for false comfort or hopes. "You must go now to Elara and my daughter. If there is a way, get them out." His companion nodded his face grave and ashen for he knew the fate that awaited them if he failed.

"And one more thing," he added, "let no one stand in your way, not even the King."

He walked quickly along a winding corridor that held a dark glow, as if some ancient demon of fire vainly attempted to hide along its path. The walls shimmered in the dancing torch light. Grabbing one he made his way to the Queen's chamber, passing no one along the way. All were now fully occupied at the city walls. A shudder, he hurried. A shadow of fear passed over him, as if the torches had all at once been dimmed; he drew his sword.

The left door still hung precariously to one side where a strong kick had left it. Elara turned with some surprise, as if expecting someone else. "The Captain has sent me, my Lady, grab your daughter, there may still be a chance." He spoke rapidly, looking about him and shifting nervously. He knew something was wrong but could not place a finger on it.

She stood there immovable, her face pale and gaunt. Such a celeritous change from before, her eyes glazed as in death, for in a way she had died. She looked in the direction of the slender opening. There was no sign of the child, only a small bird perched upon the narrow ledge. All Darius saw of it was a whisk of red tainted with brown and a distant chirrup, as if in farewell.

"Take her with you, but I must remain here, our destinies are intertwined. This I now change, perhaps they may yet be saved."

Darius looked at her curiously for a power was over him and a decision, not of his own mind, was already being made.

"Yes my lady," he said bending to her will. But instantly he awoke as from a slumber, as though another will competed with hers. "NO my lady, you also, the Captain has ordered it. Please my lady, there might still be time."

Her face became alive and her eyes widened and though open mouthed, no sound came.

"I have horses standing by and a company of men," he continued, "we shall ride to the south where..." A sharp pain racked him and shattered his spine. He jerked, his head thrown back, a weeping of blood ebbing from the corner of his mouth. The sword clattered upon the wide floor. He fell, the shadow now creeping fully over him until all was dark.

They waited, dreading their arrival and yet wishing it, old men and young, all were ready while their families cowered in the hidden tunnels beneath them. Five hundred archers lined the battlements, their bows sound and their hands eager. Two thousand men stood before the walls, swords and shields waiting to clash. And there, proud and tall, men merciless of face and blazing eyes waiting to drench their swords red in the night. Their helmets fierce, their shields broad and their blades keen, they awaited the onslaught; the Captain’s men. And the Captain himself, alone, and ahead of the rest, waiting for the first glimpse; the first sight of his fate.

Her hooves shifted with anticipation, feeling the hammering of the snowy earth. There was a delicate dusting before the walls but it deepened further out; it would impede all, on horse and foot. A horse's mournful cry, a cough, whisperings in the dim torchlight. Baruch felt the vibrations through her but gave no sign. He patted her neck and whispered softly in her ear. She cocked them, listening intently, comforted and assured at the sound of her master's voice.

Still he waited for the first sight; all was dark that night, the pale half moon casting only a shadow of illumination upon the fated picture. His breath hung before him, and was then caught by a breeze.

Strange, but his heart no longer drummed in his ears. There was calm like that before a storm; he knew from whence it came. She was with him and yet he knew in his soul, he would never again lay eyes upon her. Closing them, he saw her, her fair skin and delicate features, as clear and cool as the breeze that now brushed his cheeks.

He looked back at the men upon the walls, torches casting writhing shapes upon stone, amour bright and faces dark. He glanced at the two thousand strong and brought his eyes upon his own. They nodded in respect, each prepared to follow and each prepared to die.

He looked back no more but now faced the night. His heart began to beat fast again as if she had suddenly forgotten him; a chill foreboding evil. There was no time, they were here at last.

A vast glistening band appeared from the blackness, feebly lit by the moon. Their spearheads mirrored the stars of the sky. The earth pounded, men shivered, horses shuffled back and forth. Fingers twitched as slender arrows were brought to string; hands touched hilts, the waiting now intolerable.

Still he lingered, watching them loom ever larger until the forms of men could be seen, raising and lowering in time to their steeds. And yet they were not men, for what men would come before old man and young, woman and child, to kill for an evil such as the Necromancer.

They were now fleeting towards the city, no sound other than hooves on earth. Baruch raised his head straight; he drew his sword. It shivered with a gleam along its broad blade and he saw his own eyes staring back. He raised it high above his head and waited, for just a little longer. They grew ever closer, swifter, as if only wide unhindered plains were stretched out before them.

The hand dropped; arrows were loosed. Whistling sounds filled the air as a storm descended upon the approaching riders. Another raised sword, the command. Again the velvet sky was filled with the dangerous rain that sang with glee as it hurtled earthwards.

Black shields were raised in answer, the missiles rudely halted in their flight. A deadly answer from the oncoming terror sent several men upon the walls falling to their deaths. Screams were heard and as quickly forgotten. Still the Captain stayed, holding his ground as the cavalry was almost upon him. Again he raised his hand but this time a different sound filled the night sky as the catapults were released. Bundles were flung towards the enemy with a deafening roar of breathing fire, small boulders and rocks found their mark. Riders were crushed and burned, their shields crumpled like paper. Horses were saddled with fire and went careering across the path of others.

But the immense host was practically unmarred. On they came; bowing his head, Baruch said farewell, an answering call tugged at his thoughts, as if holding him back, but he swept it aside. Raising his sword one final time, he made ready to rush the enemy. The sword was brought down, they charged with cries that shook rock and tree, the Captain in front, his guard close behind. Two thousand men followed, running at full speed, their spear tips glinting with delight.

A ferocious clash as the two sides met, sword clanged on shield and helm. The half moon without warning disappeared, as if it could no longer look on the night's events. In the darkness, shields of the King's guard still shone but amongst the shadows of the multitude, they seemed few and were soon in need.

The captain swung his blade with horrendous strength and the head of a quarry fell amongst the thickening pile. But it was the men of Ashkeroth that were filling that mound and soon only the Captain was yet unhorsed.

There! He saw the leader, hewing with all his might at a lad who dared to challenge him. The young man fell, his face split in two, a mask of blood mercifully hiding the hideous sight. Baruch ducked as a double headed axe swung for his neck and his sword found its mark through the throat of his assailant. His horse, terrified and confused, obeyed her master's orders and muscled through the thrashing men; he had set his eyes on his target.

Through the hell, both stopped and saw the other. He turned, now intent on cleaving Baruch's head, for it was already written, in the dreams of the one he protected. He saw the impassioned eyes through the slit of the faceless mask. It was an evil sight, studded and horned, like a demon of another world.

They charged at speed and there was a sound of metal grating metal; Baruch’s horse tumbled over the dead and dying. He flew backwards, pain smiting his chest. He landed and the night sky was clear in his eyes; the moon had decided to take a peek from between the clouds.

A shadow stood over him, blotting out the moon and the star patched sky. A gleam of metal and then raised hands. A thudding laugh, the distant sounds of battle, as if far away.

All at once the moon returned but this luminary had taken on the power of the sun, as it blinded all. A voice filled the sky and the clouds sent a rage of hail.

"Cease your evil, I am coming, you have no need of slaying any longer."

The voice was commanding and it seared through Baruch as if the dark captain had continued his destined swing. As it was he had already disappeared and Baruch, slowly and with fear, turned to see the source of the voice. The battle had stopped the hail now lessened but the world had been turned into day.

She stood between the two gate towers of Ashkeroth, the gates wide open, and those defending them looking on in dreamlike stares. Her hair was adorned with petals of a fair rose and her eyes seemed to smile. Her long dress seemed in union with the earth as if they were one, as if she had arisen from the deeps of the bitter land. She stepped forward to the amazement and sorrow of Baruch. He cried aloud as he strained to get up but a sturdy foot was placed upon his head, forcing him back into the snow.

"Lie still or I may forget there is a lull in this mêlée," hissed his captor. And he was right for all had stopped in surprise at the voice; it had seemed as if a divinity had spoken. He refused to heed the warning, still laboring to see her.

"Here I am," she went on, "Take me now and leave these people to their lives." The enemy watched her as if expecting some deceit of witchcraft or sorcery. The dazzling light that seemed as if from the moon had died to its former sheen, yet a faint untimely dawn seemed to polish the sky.

He made his way towards her and as he did three others took his place, their blades biting cruelly at Baruch’s neck.

And there behind her, came the King, as if riding to victory on his sallow horse. He paused beside her, the black leader only feet away. His bloodied sword was still in his grasp and his hand was outstretched to take her by the hair.

A commotion caused them to turn. A man barely recognizable, drenched in blood and melted snow, like a monster of ancient tales, rose with such speed that his three guards were hurled back; their weapons soaring through the air. A flying sword, a grasping hand and a man raced, all his will bent on destroying him.

The evil commander readied his sword at the oncoming warrior and all held their breaths. Stepping in front, Elara raised her eyes and on meeting her, his battle fury fled and he halted, confusion reigning within him. There he stood before her, his mouth agape, tears lining the doorway to his eyes.

"Please forgive me, my love," she whispered, so softly it was as if she spoke with her eyes, so none could hear save him.

Then a warm hand caressed his mind, thoughts came to him for the first time, for she really spoke to him thus, as she had to no other.

Protect her, they know nothing of her. I must do this for her sake…and for you. I promised you in my heart, I could not allow this fate.’ She turned and faced her assassin with all the authority and loveliness of a Queen.

The King turned to Baruch and spoke with barbed spikes in place of words. "I told you, you would not have her heart for long. Her sacrifice as the Queen will allow our city to survive. What is one life compared to thousands?"

It was then understanding came like a sickening ache; he had known, even encouraged her.

The blade was raised and poised just below her left ear. The king looked on with a smile, his city saved, and his kingship out of harm's way.

"NO," cried Baruch and in his mind it was not clear, not right. He was about to strike her judge and executioner; strike him dead.

But again her voice came to him, though her back now turned for the grace of life. ‘Protect her. Remember only one now lives who knows of her. Remember.’ The blade sliced through her pale neck like he was cutting a melon for tasting. Blood dripped hastily to the ground spreading in shapes across the snow. As her life left her he heard her voice once more, distant, faint, and yet plain, ‘I loved you then, I love you always.’

Her body fell with no sound save the fluttering of her gown in the breeze. A bird perched upon a rock close by, a single tear escaping its eye like a drop from the heavens. It was then the rain began, heavy and unending; it continued to rain from that day for three more.

The black army headed north, their leader nowhere in sight, their work done, their orders fulfilled. Now no one stood in his way, no one had the power to oppose him. And yet unknown to him there was one, yet in the shadows. Baruch lay beside her fallen shell, her face cupped in his hands, her eyes staring at the downpour. His tears hid with the rain, but all could see his heart ripped like her throat, his life spilling away.

"She died for you, you should be glad of such love in your life. Even your friend gave his life for her, such folly. A pity the little bitch could not die so readily, but she has hidden herself well," said the King with clear contempt for the loyal dog at his horse’s feet.

Baruch raised his eyes and saw the horse’s barrel chest; he drew breath and reached for the sword. There was an outbreak of movement and swiftly the King was on the ground, his own defender upon him. The blade met his throat and sliced with glee, it laughed in its red glimmer and vengeance had its way.

He stood, the weapon dripping noiselessly, his face impassive. He had remembered; the clearness of her words hitting him like a bitter blast.

He stared one last time into the blaze; she stood next to him, like an angel. He knelt beside her and looked into eyes that stared back so innocently.

"There is no need to speak, father," she said as she noticed the frown upon his face. He had looked everywhere for her, seeking her and yet dreading her finding, for how could he explain? And yet she knew, just as he had known in those final moments.

"We must leave here, they have no King or Queen and I shall certainly not let them have a princess." He smiled at her and then added, "They will find their own way." He was now distant as he tried to look ahead and not behind. A losing battle, it was all too close, too real. Only four days had since passed. They needed distance from this place.

"Where do we go father?" Her voice was small and gentle, the same lilt of her mother’s.

"We go south now, someday you will return, when you are ready. You will return and set things right." She stared up at him without fear. All had been explained by her mentor; she knew what lay ahead.

"Come we have a long journey and you have much to learn. There is time enough for retribution, our day will come."

As they left Ashkeroth, the sun shone brightly as if she had risen there and stirred its fires, in the hope of lifting their flailing hearts. They did not look back, for a new journey was theirs, that of the White Lady and her Guardian.

The End

Copyright © 2003 by Darren Joy



Visit Aphelion's Lettercolumn and voice your opinion of this story.

Return to the Aphelion main page.